Statistics in Public Databases for Research

Hunting for statistics for your case study or research project? No worries. Here are a few hints that may help.

If you are new to AU, you are about to discover that AU is very generous in putting together resources for students and faculty members doing what you are doing.

SSRL proudly presents this following link that will give you access to many public databases built by organizations, such as the UN and the IMF, under these categories below. You can enjoy FREE access to these resources.

SSRL Data Resources

In addition to the databases above, you can also go the AU Library website ( and search in their databases not only for statistics, but also for books, scholarly journals, or periodicals that may help your research. As seen below, the link is on the right (circled in RED) to ‘Search Databases’. This will bring you to the Library Subject Guides. Once you get to there, the resources will be sorted alphabetically, and you can type in the name of specific organizations or literature that you have in mind in the search engine at the top right of the page.

American University Library

American University is also a member institute in the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan. ICPSR gathers, maintains and disburses a large number of data sets to users interested in Social Science research. We can link you to this “database of databases” and help you download your data if you need it.

Please enjoy the wealth of data that we have shared with you and good luck with your work!

Statistics Video Tutorials (and more!) with The Khan Academy

Misplaced all of your statistics knowledge? Forgot which mental filing cabinet you stored everything you learned last year in the statistics class you aced (because you got help from the SSRL?). Or maybe all of your statistics books and notes “accidentally” fell down the garbage chute last semester…and you need your notes again?  Well, good luck getting those back.

Aside from what we can offer you (Even during the summertime!), check out this website that can help you brush up on your statistics or even help you learn something new:

The Kahn Academy is a non-profit organization that provides video tutorials on almost any academic subject out there – including Statistics!  Their videos are generally about 10 minutes or less, and the “instructor” (a casual, informative, and often humorous voice narrating the lesson) will guide you through the lesson using colorful visuals. There are no tests, just lectures. At the moment the Academy is striving to cover all the essentials of a first year statistics course. You can see on their webpage that they have already covered most of the basics:

These video tutorials can help you understand the fundamentals of statistics, but they won’t show you how to actually use statistics programs such as SPSS or STATA. For help on how to use these programs and more, feel free to visit us in the lab and we will show you how it’s done.

Learn Statistics with Comic Books

And you thought statistics couldn’t get more exciting!

Sometimes reading the standard text on statistics can be a snoozefest (but don’t ditch them yet, they’re still very important!) Another interesting way to learn the fundamentals of statistics is to read them the way we best knew entertainment growing up: cartoons.  Below are a couple of books we found for purchase online that can help you better understand statistics and even how to compute them using the right software.

One of the books we found is The Manga Guide to Statistics. Created by Shin Takahashi, it’s a statistics guide that reviews claim covers at most, if not all, the material of a entry level stats course in college. The summary alone should get you pumped: “Statistics with heart-pounding excitement!” The book covers how data is categorized, standard deviation, probability, bivariate and multivariate statistics, and more.  The appendix reviews how to calculate data using Excel (and not SPSS, unfortunately. But that’s where we fill in that gap). Here’s a taste of what we’re talking about:

From “Manga Guide to Statistics”, Shin Takahashi, 2008

Another statistics-inspired cartoon is one simply called The Cartoon Guide to Statistics. Written by Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith, The Cartoon Guide to Statistics covers all the central ideas of modern statistics: the summary and display of data, probability in gambling and medicine, random variables, the Central Limit Theorem, hypothesis testing, confidence interval estimation, and much more—all explained in simple, clear, and funny illustrations:

From “The Cartoon Guide to Statitics”, Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith, 1993

If you want a fun(ner) way to learn statistics, try these books and let us know what you think of them! Maybe in the future we’ll consider creating our own statistics comic book…hmm…


Statistics in a heartbeat with BeiberBeta

Find statistical figures with Wolfram Alpha?  That was so yesterday.

You need to know the rate of Justin Bieber record sales in Uganda but you don’t want to search through a thousand websites to find the answer. And you need to know it now (before you, like, scream). What to do? Ask BieberBeta!

BeiberBeta was created by Wolfram Alpha (if you don’t know what that is, check out yesterday’s post) to produce un-belieb-able facts about anything you want to know. It’s built on a programming package that encompasses numerical computation, visualization, and statistics capabilities (i.e. you can trust its capabilities with numbers. If you type in “(9*(86+3))+(134/12)+27″, you’ll get an answer expressed in 7 different but accurate ways…related to Justin Bieber).

Give it a try!


Statistics in a flash with Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha screenshot

Quick! You need to know the population growth rate of Uganda but you don’t want to search through a thousand websites to find the answer. And you need to know it now. What to do? Ask Wolfram Alpha! (By the way, the answer is 3.33% per year, according to said website.)

Wolfram Alpha is an “answer engine”, which is different from a search engine (like Google) that usually gives you links to other websites rather than the immediate answer you want. It’s built on Wolfram’s earlier product, Mathematica, a programming package that encompasses numerical computation, visualization, and statistics capabilities (i.e. you can trust its capabilities with numbers. If you type in “(9*(86+3))+(134/12)+27″, you’ll get an answer expressed in 7 different but accurate ways).

Wolfram Alpha also provides non-specific queries and will produce a result that best illustrates the answer you’re searching for:

Life expectancy of 25 year old male in Japan: (Answer: 79.93 years)
Average weight of a 20 year old female in Argentina: (Answer: approx. 149 lbs)
lim(x->0) x/sin x: (Answer: 1)

It also responds to more complex, fact-based questions such as:

What is the 29th smallest country by GDP per capita? (Answer: Ghana)
How old was Ronald Reagan in 1978? (Answer: 66 years old)
Where was Mark Zuckerberg born? (Answer: Dobbs Ferry, NY. Which has the population of over 11,000 people, if you cared to know)

If these don’t convince you yet, check out more examples on their examples page.

Wolfram Alpha’s database currently includes hundreds of datasets, including current and historical weather, drug data, star charts, currency conversion, and many others. The datasets have been accumulated over approximately two years, and are expected to grow. If you’re weary about where all of this information comes from, you can click the “Source Information” button at the bottom of the page.

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4 Stats Apps for your iPhone or iPad

StatsMate screenshot

Do you ever wish that you could carry a whole bunch of databases and statistics in your pocket?  These days you can, thanks to these four apps that you can download for your iPhone or iPad.

An important note – SSRL does not endorse any of these apps, nor will we be able to show you how to use them.  Also, these apps are not ranked in order of coolness, and they have not been tested by the consultants. The descriptions below come directly from the app description on iTunes, where you can get even more information about the app.

1. StatsMate

StatsMate (screenshot above) allows you to search for a statistical value without interpreting a table. StatsMate is created to help you find probability density curves areas, critical values, rejection regions of hypothesis testing, P-values, and more. It features many of the common probability distributions, including the normal, chi-square, gamma, and many others.  This app is available for both the iPhone and iPad. You can try the lite version for free.

2. OECD Factbook

Wherever you are, you can get easy access to a comprehensive statistical picture of the world’s major economies from OECD. The app is organized around12 themes such as population and migration, macroeconomic trends, and globalization. Each indicator includes a table showing the latest available data for the 30 OECD countries. This app is free but not available on the iPad.

3. World Bank Data Finder

This app lets you access fifty years of World Bank data on more than 1,100 global economic indicators for around 200 countries, chart and visualize that data, and share those data and charts for use in you presentations and projects. This app is free for both the iPhone and iPad.

4. Economy for iPad

This app gives you a snapshot of the U.S. Economy (and also individual states) by providing the latest key economic indicators and tracking the history of these indicators across the past few months, years, and decades. It features the latest values of key U.S. economic indicators (GDP, Employment, Housing, Manufacturing, Infliation, etc) published by the U.S. Federal Reserve. This app is only available for the iPad.

If you decide to try any of these apps yourself, let us know if they are useful to you!